by Carmela DeNicola
Referrals are one of the best ways to increase your client rate and is also one of the most cost effective forms of advertising your time and effort can buy. When business owners ask for referrals, they have a specific job or task in mind and they obviously value the opinion of the individual they are asking. This, in turn, makes the likelihood of a referral / buyer consummated arrangement as close to a sure thing as you can get. That’s the good news. The not so good news, is that for some reason many small business owners and entrepreneurs don’t bother to ask for a referral from
their clients. It is not enough to assume that your client will pass along
words of praise about your business or that you hope to get referrals. Many small business owners have shared with me that they are just “not comfortable asking for a referral”.
The key to asking for a referral / testimonial is asking for it at the right time. Most business owners wait until the job is finished and either send out an email or make a phone call, again after the fact, asking for the referral. By waiting until your job is finished you have in essence become “out of sight and out of mind”. The business owner you have just services has moved on and no matter how great the service you provided was, the chances of getting a referral are greatly diminished. Here are the steps that I suggest:
1. Timing Is Everything – ask for the referral / testimonial when your project or service is about 2/3 completed. Your client has had an opportunity to evaluate your work and the service you are performing is center stage and in the moment.
2. Give Them Options – Businesses are generally open to helping other businesses as long as they found value in the service you provided and that it does not cost them anything as in too much time, money, etc. Here is a suggestion:
“I am very happy that you were pleased with my service, do you know of other companies who might have a need for my service? (Referral) and if not, would you be willing to provide me a testimonial, either would be greatly appreciated.”
The worse that can happen is that you get “No” for an answer. Your client most times will take the path of least resistance or time so if they know a business off the top of their head that can use your service, you will likely get a referral. Testimonials take more time, of course. If your client does not have a referral handy for you, often you can end up with the better option and get a written testimonial that you can post on your website, social media sites, in your business, etc.
3. Circle Back, It’s OK – If you have asked for a referral / testimonial (2/3 point of job completion) and you received a positive response that your client would be glad to provide this but so far has not, it’s ok to ask again. “You mentioned that you would be willing to give me a referral or testimonial and I recognize you are very busy but I would really appreciate it”. Since you had gotten a positive initial response, chances are the client will come through with the referral and they probably just got busy.
4. Follow Thru – Ok, the client said they would, but they didn’t. You still have an opportunity to get a referral, testimonial or some valuable input. Everyone knows the saying about good intentions, so if the client was sincere about the positive response there is still a chance you will be provided with your referral or testimonial. Client’s are business owners but they are people too and sometimes they are not comfortable being completely candid in face to face situations or maybe they just won’t invest any time in complaining, instead they will simply dispense with all that pertains to you and your business. I always suggest sending a “Thank You” post card that includes and area for Comments. If you receive the “Thank You” card back with less than complimentary comments, it is a good idea to send a personal letter back that includes your appreciation for the feedback as well as the steps you have taken to address the concerns noted. When you are the benefactor of a referral, it is also good business etiquette to send a thank you note to the individual who referred you.
Remember, if you are providing value in your service or in your products, the worse that could happen when asking for a referral or testimonial is that the client says, “no”. On the other end of the spectrum, following these easy steps will help you not only get referrals and testimonials, but they will help you to grow your business by simply doing what you do best.